A Cradle of Wolves

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Chapter Twenty-Four: Life or Death?

After his tumultuous visit at the Mondragon estate Theo arrived at the hospital where Benjamin was at. Helen was waiting for him in the waiting room; she sat on one of the seats in the doleful room, leaning forward with her face buried in her hands and stressing over the predicament that had befallen her and Benjamin.

When Theo approached Helen, he put a coaxing hand on her shoulder. She looked up and instantly her glum expression lightened a bit. Quickly she arose from where she sat, tightly hugging Theo in relief that he was back. He received the hug and kissed her lips as if he had been yearning for her all day.

“What happened? What did you say to Ana?” she asked with a penetrative gaze. She was hoping that he had at least pressed charges on the girl.

“I only cautioned her. It’s up to Benjamin whether he wants to press charges or not,” he replied with a sigh. “She’s not all there, Helen. It’s kind of shocking seeing someone so broken like that.” He looked down, shaking his head in a most regrettable manner. The image of Ana with her wide eyes, which held no emotion, and frantic mannerisms had been itched into his mind. He was afraid that the way he saw her today was how he’ll ever see her again. It was saddening to come to that realization, but it was the truth.

“Well, that’s what happens when you’ve been living a lie all your life. It’s obvious that Ana was never truly herself. You can only blame her family and the people she surrounded herself with for that,” added Helen. She shifted uncomfortably and surreptitiously glanced behind her. Helen saw a flash of inquisitiveness in Theo’s eyes, so she was left with no choice but to tell him. “Booker and Jennifer are here.”

“What?” Theo ran a hand through his hair with a stressed sigh. “How did they know that Benjamin is here?”

“I correctly guessed Benjamin’s password on his phone, and I called Booker,” she confessed, “Booker has every right to know what happened to Benjamin. What if Benjamin had died and Booker was left in the dark about it? I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself. They love each other a lot and…”

Theo smiled warmly at Helen. “I understand. I would never want my grievances with the Edmunds to ever get in between the love that Benjamin and Booker have for one another.” He furrowed his brow and looked about. “Where are they?” Helen had mentioned that they were at the hospital, but they were nowhere to be found nearby.

Helen looked around and shrugged, unknowing of the siblings’ whereabouts. “Benjamin apparently had lost a lot of blood and Booker volunteered for a transfusion so he’s probably getting his blood taken right now. But Jennifer was sitting here with me not so long ago. When she got a phone call, she left the room.”

Jennifer and Booker walked into the waiting room just as Helen was speaking of them. They tensed when they saw Theo but in the end they had no choice but to confront him. Jennifer appeared distressed before she entered the waiting room; she held onto her phone close to her chest while her face was wet with tears. Meanwhile, Booker wasn’t as vexed to see Theo, nor did he seem immeasurably distraught like his sister.

Theo wanted to ask what was wrong but decided to hold his tongue. Jennifer or Booker would never talk to him especially after what Theo had done to their family’s reputation. Theo shoved his hands in his pockets and remained silent. A small smile with pressed lips played across his face to lighten the tension, or so he hoped.

“How did the transfusion go?” Helen broke the awkward silence.

Booker nodded, seeming relieved all of a sudden. “Perfect. My blood was a perfect match. The doctor told me that Benjamin should wake up in an hour or so.”

Helen clasped her hands together, relieved. “Thank goodness!”

Booker scoffed lightheartedly. “You’re telling me. You have no idea how I felt when I saw him on that bed. I thought he was dead…”

Helen knew how he had felt. She almost lost Theo too not long ago—It was a feeling that she never wanted to feel ever again. To have someone, whom you love with all your heart, ripped from your life by the ever so merciless Death was enough to guarantee the death sentence of the devastated lover, for he or she would voluntarily follow their lover to the afterlife out of grief.

“Theo, would you please tell Benjamin that I was here.” It was the first time that Booker had ever spoken to Theo with some kindness in his tone of voice.

Theo gulped. He was taken by surprise. “Uh, sure. You know I will.”

“Thanks. I would stay but my sister and I have to tend to a family emergency.”

Theo nodded. “Yea you guys go on ahead. I’ll tell Benjamin to give you a call or something later when he’s feeling better.”

“No, there’s no need for that.” Booker clenched his jaw and blinked a tear away. “If he wants to call me then that’s his choice. Out of all people you should know that my relationship with him is in a rocky situation.”

Theo hoped that Booker wasn’t blaming him for the state of his relationship with Benjamin. He could hope all he wanted but in the end Theo was the only one that the blame would fall on either way. Booker was surely blaming him for everything, and much more importantly his broken relationship with Benjamin. Theo sat himself on one of the seats in the waiting room when Booker and Jennifer left. The mounting stress within Theo was evident. All he needed was a bit of good news for once to save his spirit from drowning in a gloomy sea of tragedy.

In that moment the doctor came into the waiting room to inform Theo and Helen on Benjamin’s condition. “He’s a quick healer,” the doctor joyfully told them, “He’s awake if any of you want to go see him.”

Theo thanked the doctor before excusing himself. He felt utterly relieved to see his friend alive and well when he arrived at Benjamin’s room. The last he saw of Benjamin was when he was being taken on a stretcher, bleeding and breathing faintly.

“Wow, you look super happy to see me,” Benjamin said with a laugh but winced in pain from his minor exertion.

“Because I am.” Theo hastily grabbed a seat that was near the door and set it next to the hospital bed where Benjamin laid at.

“She was going for Helen.” Benjamin immediately jumped on topic. He touched the large bandage on his chest.

“It’s up to you if you want to press charges since you got shot.” Theo pursed his lips. If anyone should have been shot, it should have been him—or at least that was his perspective.

“No. Bottom line is that no one should have been shot.” Benjamin knew Theo very well; he knew that he was beating himself over what is now the past. “I’m alive. Helen is alive. It’s all good. Oh, and I am going to press charges.”

Theo tilted his head to the side, wondering where Benjamin’s unreserved hatred for Ana was coming from. Indeed, he got shot, but by the veracity that shone in his eyes it was evident that Benjamin had been looking for an excuse to take Ana down for quite a while.

“Maybe I should tell you now since I almost took this secret to the grave. If I tell you, can you promise me that you will not use this information as a means of furthering your revenge?” Benjamin looked at Theo sternly. “I don’t know how Booker will feel if he found out but I’m sure that it will hurt him in knowing. I love him; therefore I don’t want to break his heart in any way possible.”

Theo nodded and returned Benjamin’s gaze with the same sternness. “I promise.”

Benjamin opened his lips in a circle, exhaling and preparing himself for what he was going to confess to Theo. “Ana is having an affair with Julian.”

Theo sat back and shook his head, completely repulsed. With each passing day he saw that Booker was more and more a victim of the things that went on around him. “You’re doing right in not telling Booker about this infamy yet.”

“He has to know someday sooner or later, though. I cannot be with him and keep this a secret from him.” Benjamin rested a hand on his chest as if his heart was in pain. “I can’t keep a secret that big from him, Theo. It would be dishonest of me.”

“Anyways,” Theo changed the somber topic. Indeed, one day soon that secret would come to light, but it would come in a day where Booker was detached from his wicked mother and uncle forever and thought nothing of them. Instead, Theo focused on a positive truth. “Booker gave you his blood. He saved you.”

Benjamin looked at the IV in his wrist with contemplation. “I’ve been tough on him and I shouldn’t have been. I don’t know why he’s still kind to me when all I’ve done is push him away. All this time I’ve been making him choose me over his family. I shouldn’t have been like that. I mean, it’s not like I was making him choose between me and another guy. I made him choose between me or his family and it’s only obvious that he would stick with his family.”

“Are you and him over?” It was a bold question on Theo’s part. Perhaps Benjamin had never seen it like that before. Perhaps Benjamin had never once pondered whether he and Booker were over once and for all.

“I like to think that we are because our relationship under the current situation is not a healthy relationship.” Benjamin’s heart lurched forward, almost excruciatingly, at the reality that he wanted nothing to do with Booker. Ultimately, he was only fooling himself because he wanted Booker in his life now more than ever. He wanted to drive off into the sunset with the man he loved, but now he was only walking into the darkening twilight of solitude.

Theo definitely knew that Booker blamed him for the state of his relationship, so it was only natural that he felt curious on how Benjamin felt towards Theo as well. “Do you blame me for what is going on with you and Booker?”

Benjamin was stunned by the intensity of the question. “I can’t lie to you, Theo. At first, I did blame you even though I have said otherwise. Then I realized that if Booker’s mother and uncle weren’t the despicable people they are, then none of his would be happening. I blame Constance, not you.” He paused before continuing on. “Although I cannot vouch for Booker on that.”

Someone knocked on the door, interrupting their conversation. Benjamin called out to whomever was knocking to come in; it was Helen who entered.

“Theo, Cristina is here,” she said before adding, “She has some news for you.” Her tone of voice was devoid of any serenity, a sign that the news that Cristina had brought was nothing positive. “I’ll stay here with my hero,” Helen continued with a hint of playfulness amidst the gloom.

Theo kindly patted Benjamin’s shoulder and kissed Helen on his way out. He traded one somber scene for another; Cristina and Tobias were standing in the waiting room with their arms crossed.

“Is everything alright?” Theo asked instantly.

Cristina smiled and approached Theo with a soothing hug. “Yes, yes. Everything is fine. I cannot say the same for Constance, however.”

Theo stepped away, dazed. Constance? Had something bad happen to her? Theo felt a stir of joy rising up within him. He knew he shouldn’t be feeling glad that something terrible might have happened to another person, but this person was his enemy in particular. Instinctively one would feel an immense feeling of satisfaction to know that their enemy had finally been taken care of. He was somewhat bothered by the fact that whatever had happened to Constance wasn’t his doing, but it sufficed.

“Constance is fine, unfortunately.” Cristina instantly shot down Theo’s hopes. “It’s about Julian. From the information that Tobias has received…” she stopped short because she didn’t know how she could elaborate with words of what had transpired.

“It’s believed that a murder-suicide took place at the Mondragon estate,” Tobias said as he fixed his glasses. He pulled out his phone to read the screen. The luminous reflection of his phone’s screen on his glasses hid his eyes under a bright glow. “They found Ana with a broken neck and ribs. Lisa, strangled. Julian, a shot to his head with a gun next to him.”

Theo covered his agape mouth, incredulous over the details. Immediately he wanted to know the how and why.

“It’s obvious that Constance is behind it,” Cristina said in response to Theo’s shock.

“We only have Constance left,” Theo looked up at Cristina with hope glinting in his eyes. “All we have to do is take her down,” then he spoke to Tobias, “How’s the process coming along with the will?”

“We’ll have it very soon,” Tobias reassured him and added jokingly, “Where would you be without me, huh?”

Cristina sat next to Theo, smiling at him as if she was ready to surprise him with a gift of some sort. She didn’t want to talk about Constance and the tragedy that had befallen the Edmunds. She wanted to talk about something else, something much more important to her. “In a week from now the test results will be delivered to me.”

The DNA test results. The words pleasantly echoed in Theo’s mind. The moment of truth was just around the corner for him. What would happen if he was indeed Dante Clearwater? It was a question that made Theo wonder. But the million-dollar question was looming in the distance like an ominous storm. What would happen if he wasn’t in fact Cristina’s missing son?

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